School of fish

We all want to do what’s best for our children. So why aren’t we feeding them more fish oils?

A new study showed that school-aged children in the United Kingdom have omega-3 levels that are way below the minimum recommendations for adult heart health.

And yes, I know this isn’t the UK. But our populations have a lot in common when it comes to such things. So it’s worth paying attention to these results.

Most notably, the discovery that both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) levels had significant positive associations to both reading scores and working memory.

Low levels of DHA, on the other hand, were linked to worse reading and memory performance, along with attention problems in kids. Even after adjusting for age and socioeconomic status.

The good news? Supplementing with 600 mg of DHA every day for about four months led to significant improvements in both reading and behavior among children facing the most challenges in these departments.

It’s worth nothing that optimal blood omega-3 concentrations among adults should range from 8 percent to 12 percent. Anything less than 4 percent is considered high risk, especially where heart health is concerned.

In contrast, kids in this analysis had blood omega-3 concentrations of about 2.46 on average—with levels being slightly higher among boys. That’s disturbingly low by any standard.

Children and young adolescents had the lowest omega-3 levels of all. Which isn’t too surprising, given their dietary habits. (I mean, how many young kids to you know who actually like to eat fish? And no, frozen fish sticks don’t really count.)

In fact, parents in this study reported that nearly nine out of 10 of these kids didn’t meet the UK recommendations of two portions of fish per week.

If you ask me, something needs to be done about this. And overhauling school lunch programs to include more omega-3s (among many other very necessary changes) may be one place to start.

Because yes, these fatty acids are important for heart health, immune function, and inflammation control. But they’re also critical for proper brain development and function.

Should we be concerned that they’re not sufficiently present in our kids’ diets in particular? You bet we should be.

So what should you do right now? Add fish to your family’s dinner menu this week. And every week. I know getting some kids to actually eat it might be easier said than done. But keep trying! And in the meantime, start giving them a good fish oil supplement.

If you give them nothing else, this is the one supplement every child should be taking (along with vitamin D) in order to be healthy.

Looks like grandma had the right idea with her cod liver oil—vitamin D and fish oils in one disgusting spoonful.  Luckily for kids today, everything tastes a lot better now.


“Low blood long chain omega-3 fatty acids in UK children are associated with poor cognitive performance and behavior: a cross-sectional analysis from the DOLAB study.” PLoS One. 2013 Jun 24;8(6):e66697.